In Bruges: Part Two

Today the sun came out in Bruges, and it seemed to breathe a whole new lease of life into the city and all who dwelt in her. This was helped in no small part by the fact it was also a “no car” day in the centre, which meant that shop owners could display their wares out on the street, creating something of a carnival atmosphere. Bands and street performers could be found at every turn, and there were food stalls and craft stalls lining the main canals (one of which we couldn’t resist, so in addition to the four large bottles of beer I’m carrying back I also have a huge ceramic tiled plate-when in Bruges..).

We strayed a little off the beaten track this morning and were glad of it. Away from the throngs of tourists there are hidden gems to be found; cute rows of cottages, sprays of beautiful flowers and interesting churches. The architecture in Bruges is stunning, and it’s worth seeking out the back streets to really get a feel for the place and its history. If you walk far enough away from the centre, as we did along Langenstraat, you reach the canal and are greeted by the sight of several windmills, standing tall and proud against the backdrop of the (today very beautiful) sky.

We didn’t make it up the belfry tower, in part because we couldn’t face being caught up in the hordes of tourists queuing to go up it and in part because we decided we’d rather spend our remaining euros on a beer and some lunch. Afterwards we wandered around the chocolate shops one last time before returning to our hotel – the Jan Brito, where we had a lovely ‘knight’ room with beamed ceiling and enjoyed the morning fry ups immensely, but were slightly less enamoured with the ridiculously slow lift and tenuous plug socket connections for charging – to collect our things and make our way to the train station.

It’s been short and sweet, Belgium, but I’ve had a great weekend in your fair land. Until next time.

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Carnival

ImageEvery year it amazes me that the Notting Hill carnival is allowed to take place, given the sheer amount of detritus it leaves in its wake. But it’s testament to the spirit of this glorious city that it does go ahead, and that it’s managed so well and enjoyed by so many. This year I went on both days, spending most of Sunday at the appropriately named Good Times bus and today at the Red Bull sound system under the Westway in Portobello. The latter was a private party I was lucky enough to win tickets to in a public ballot along with 999 other people (out of 19,000 who applied, or so someone I met this afternoon informed me). With a stellar line up of djs and a free barΒ from midday to 7pmΒ it was always going to be an awesome party, and so it was, despite the fact we were feeling a touch jaded after yesterday’s frivolities. Right now I’m feeling like I’ve had a bit too much fun this weekend, but I’m sure I’ll do it all over again next year. Let the good times (bus) roll…